Jackie Cockle, Director of Wind in the Willows chats with Ken Clark.
KC: The Toad Hall set is large, detailed and quite magnificent. I presume you decided on this scale to enable the cameraman and animators to work within it?
JC: Yes, it also scales with the puppets which are approximately nine to ten inches in height. The set has break away sections to make life easier for us. You might think that lighting a set like this would prove troublesome, but it doesn’t. In fact a few cast shadows lend a touch of realism, so it doesn’t matter. Our principal concern is achieving even illumination, and if cast shadows are too dense then a sheet of white paper on the floor to reflect the light is often quite adequate. We keep the main sets for Wind in the Willows here, all the interiors and exteriors involving the main characters, and the Wild Wood sets which we use all the time. Others are moved in and out of Stores as required.
It must take a lot of pre-planning since two crews are working on separate episodes at one and the same time?
Yes, it does. We work to an eight week turn round schedule for the body of the film which lasts eighteen minutes. The films last twenty minutes when they go out with leaders and trailers. Shooting the film Winter Sports took fourteen weeks because it was very complicated and contained a lot of action, involving the sledge rides and Toad on his skis, what we had to do then was balance it in the next episode trying to do a back to back. If you can schedule two pairs of animators to work parallel on different sets for the same issue, you can make up a lot of time. Rather than slavishly produce episodes in eight weeks, it is much nicer to be able to do occasional ‘specials’. Some films are basically chat shows, but then the full action ones give the animators scope to extend themselves and scheduling restores the balance.
How many episodes have you completed so far?
We’ve completed two series of 13 episodes each – 26 in the can -series three will take us to the end of this year. Series four begins in 1987.
How many people work on Wind in the Willows?
The director, two animators and a cameraman make up one unit. There are two units working at the same time and of course they have a vast backup crew supporting them in the workshops. It is necessary to pre-plan everything, making due allowance for the unexpected breakages, repaints, etc., noticing whether the principal characters are being used for the final few days shoot and arranging for the first scenes in the next episode to exclude them while they are being refurbished and refitted. It all comes down to effective scheduling.
Printed in Animator Issue 17 (Autumn 1986)